I love animals. I am in awe of their endless variety, the ways that they can interact with us humans, the comfort they can give, the lessons they can teach, their surprising intelligence (once we learn how to detect it), and the love and devotion they show. They are enough like us that it is scary at times and I am never more aware of this than when I look into my cat’s eyes. She meets my gaze and we have a moment of reading each other’s thoughts – or so it seems.
I say “my cat” (and she would probably agree) but in reality she was rescued by my daughter Julia. As the story goes, she was found wandering in some parking lot in Orlando, Florida as a kitten. Kittens do not survive well in parking lots, so my daughter, who is a rescuer by nature, brought her home and she became our cat. She had a few names, however the one that stuck, because it was easy to remember, was Gray Kitty. Not very imaginative, but it worked.
Years later when Julia moved away to attend veterinary school, she took two of her cats with her but left Gray Kitty with me. I didn’t mind. I haven’t seen very many cats that are as beautiful and pleasant to look at as Gray Kitty. Gray is a nice color to begin with, plus the added attraction of white feet and bib, topped off with white whiskers and brilliant green eyes – there is a pretty cat. Most of the time her voice was tiny, quiet and responsive. I would say her name and she would answer. I would enter the room and she would acknowledge me. I would pick her up and she would start purring immediately and not stop until I put her down. For a cat, she was sensible and seldom caused trouble or worried me.
There was a season in my work life when I would come home exhausted every day, barely able to make it to the recliner. No matter where she was in the house, the sound of the recliner being stretched out would have her in my lap within seconds. She would get comfy in her feline manner, and settle down for “our nap”.
She learned that kitchen noises were associated with food, for her and for us. She learned the art of silent begging. When we would finally sit at the table, she had her spot close by where she could fix her eyes on us and dare us to ignore her. She loved drinking out of the bathroom sink. She loved being outside.
And now she has gotten old, and don’t I know how that feels! We have more in common than ever. But she has also fallen ill with kidney disease. Her appetite has waned and in the last few weeks she has hardly eaten anything in spite of special food, constantly available. She is as light as a feather. Her calls, or cries, have become different and more plaintive. She often sits or stands in odd places with a dazed look on her face, and sometimes loses her balance. She is failing. These kinds of things do not improve. The pain of seeing her suffer is at war with the pain of deciding to stop her suffering and I feel the weight of decision. It is heavy.